Carolina's Kalil, Tolbert on Team 'Riverboat'

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
9:30
PM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera will have a good place to start when it's time to go "Riverboat Ron'' in Sunday's Pro Bowl.

Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, the captain for the team Rivera and his Carolina staff will coach, picked Panthers center Ryan Kalil and fullback Mike Tolbert during Tuesday's first-ever Pro Bowl draft.

That gives Rivera the perfect place to start up the middle if he decides to gamble on fourth-and-1 as he did so many times during the season to earn the nickname "Riverboat Ron.''

"Very happy,'' Rivera said during the draft televised live on the NFL Network.

Rivera had a chance to take Carolina long snapper J.J. Jansen, but instead took Indianapolis' Matt Overton. Colts coach Chuck Pagano, paired with Hall of Fame captain Deion Sanders, in turn took Jansen.

Or maybe letting Jansen go to the opposing team was part of Rivera's strategy.

"It's one of those things where J.J. will do the right thing,'' Rivera said with a wry smile during the broadcast.

Rice will have a shot at four other Panthers on Wednesday night as the draft continues. Joining Kalil, Tolbert and Jansen in Honololu are quarterback Cam Newton, left tackle Jordan Gross, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive end Greg Hardy.

Wouldn't it be fun to see Hardy, aka "The Kraken,'' go after the quarterback he can't touch in practice? Or to see Kuechly stuff Tolbert on a "Riverboat Ron'' dive up the middle?

Stay tuned.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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